In recent years, Traveller Australia released a list of the top ten places in the world to frequent for tea. The list includes countries across the globe that offer variety, from high-tea and tinkling ivory on a plush seat at the Ritz London, to a plantation tour trekking the emerald green fields in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. No matter what your fancy, travelling to one of these spectacular destinations is sure to be your cup of tea.
Tea is not a drink in London, England; it’s a ritual. Afternoon tea had its beginning as a private routine enjoyed by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. In the early 1800s it was common to indulge in only two meals per day, which left the Duchess “hangry” shortly after noon. A ritualistic snack and tea period was reserved for the Duchess and her closest confidants in the privacy of her luxe bedroom. When word spread like wildfire (as royal trends tend to) the afternoon tea time was soon a staple.
If you want to enjoy tea as a posh National formality, head to England’s capital for a special experience that is sure to leave you with a good taste in your mouth. For an ornamented and elegant afternoon try high-tea at one of the following:
Hotel Café Royal
Claridge's Afternoon Tea
Fortnum & Mason
Source: The Ritz London
What better way to sip on tea, than on one of the world’s most iconic railways? The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world and meanders through Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia, and can be taken East-West or West-East. There is no telling who you might meet on this winding route through Siberia. There is a guarantee that a hot cup of tea will be available in your car. The boiling water is served in a traditional Russian container called a Samovar. You and your fellow travellers can pour mug after mug of tea from your communal Samovar and share stories of your travel plans as you traverse over borders.
Source: Persian Shop
These South American destinations are a must for all Yerba Mate lovers. Yerba Mate is widely enjoyed and regarded across South America. The drink is enjoyed with a bombilla (a silber straw) and gourd, two instruments that help in the steeping process. In South America you can join the morning routine cup of Mate to begin your day with an invigorating and lasting caffeined boost.
The Mate Gourd will be a common site when combing the streets of Paraguay, Uruguay or Argentina. The dedicated artisans and shopkeepers can share tips on how to pick out the perfect gourd. Another wonderful component of Mate is its ability to bring people together. The brewing process tends to be traditional and involves using practices passed down from older generations in one’s own family. The second step, enjoying the beverage, is then a celebration of sharing the experience with others in the community.
A visit to Yueyang, China is where one must experience the light, delicate taste of the rare silver needle tea; Junshan Yinzhen tea. Yellow tea has long been venerated across China and respected as one of the most unattainable yet beneficial teas for health and longevity. Junshan Yinzhen, literally translates to “Silver Needle(s) of the Gentleman Mountain” and is grown exclusively in this region of China. This tea boasts accolades such as landing in the top ten Chinese Famous Teas.
If you crave authentic Silver Needle from the source, travelling to China to observe the careful (and lengthy) harvesting and processing, could endow you a newfound respect for your humble cup. Surveying the rural tea fields along the coastal water is sure to bring you an appreciation for the Silver Needle’s beginnings.
Source: Trip Advisor
Don’t expect to zip through a Starbucks or steep your cup on the go in the Sahara Desert. The tea culture in the Sahara is all about savouring each moment of tea drinking. Much like coffee culture, the way tea is enjoyed varies across the globe. This region of North Africa has a distinct ritual for tea drinking. There is a proverb about the sipping of tea: “The first is strong like love, the second bitter like life, the third one sweet as death.”
A ritual that takes place across the Sahara (and has taken place for centuries), involves a several key equipment; a teapot, a silver tray, two silver beakers, and a camel-hair buffing cloth. When camp was established the tea preparation is set up atop a carpet laid across the sand. An essential technique is the high pouring from beaker to teapot in order to stimulate foam. You can take our word for it, or go experience this first hand.
Source: Blue Parallel
You haven’t tried matcha until you’ve attended a chanoyu, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony that was influenced by the rituals of the Zen Buddhist monks. Attending a chanoyu in Uji, Japan is experiencing tea as a sacred art, the only downside is that you may never be able to recreate such a magical tea time again.
Uji, Japan is famous for its green tea. Shopping in the markets will allow you access to matcha ice cream, matcha beauty products, matcha soba noodles, and more matcha-infused goods that boast all the benefits of this antioxidant-rich supertea.
Source: Inside Kyoto
If you fancy a breathtaking hike along the Inca Trail in Peru, you may need to remedy your altitude sickness. The Coca Tea enjoyed in Peru is a popular drink that naturally increases the blood’s absorption of oxygen. Coca tea is not legal in the United States or Canada and should be left in Peru if you’re trying it on your travels. The leaves of the coca plant contain alkaloids which, when extracted chemically, are the source for cocaine base. However, the amount of coca alkaloid in the raw leaves is small and harmless in the tea form.
The real Boston Tea Party is at modern day Ming’s Market. Although the harbour may have been cleared of tea hundreds of years ago, it didn’t leave Boston void of a wide selection. Ming’s market flaunts shelves and shelves of tea for any number of cravings and remedy-seekers. You can skim through the aisle for your loose leaf choice. Unlike the aforementioned destinations, you can grab and go to enjoy your pick at home (or at your Airbnb).
There is truly no place like Darjeeling. Expect to be awe-struck by ribbons of emerald-green tea fields enveloped by a perimeter of stately snow-capped mountains. The tea that takes its place of origin’s own name, is characterized by its astringent, musky, and even spicy flavours. There are green, white, and oolong varieties of Darjeeling depending on your preference.
If you step foot in the landscape of Darjeeling, India you need to visit a tea plantation. The Happy Valley Tea Estate is a must. This hot spot is located just north of town and offers the only guided tea factory tour in Darjeeling. The estate grows some of the finest tea in the region and has a long history. You’ll certainly leave this trip with a few souvenirs.
Source: Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash
Finally, the last location on the list is a trip to Hill Country, Sri Lanka. The Hill Country is just as picturesque as it sounds, with tea fields blanketed in sheets of mist, rolling hills peeking through to greet you with a scene of fresh tea leaves. The island is also full of magical waterfalls that cascade down cliff faces to break through the otherwise uninterrupted silence of the mountaintops.
It is here that people scoff at coffee and offer a cuppa. The people in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka commonly consume 4-5 cups of tea a day to ward off indigestion, heart disease and general dysfunction. Along the narrow roads you can embark on a tea seminar, you may observe fellow pedestrians carrying freshly plucked leaves in large sacks or bundles of tea plant branches to use as firewood back home. The Hill Country is truly an immersive tea experience.
Source: Sasha Set on Unsplash
No matter which destination ends up being your cup of tea, be sure to observe and appreciate the different ways tea is enjoyed, processed, and savoured, across the globe. From the big city shops to the humble rural origins, billions of tea exports travel for miles to reach drinker like you. Maybe it’s time you make the trip to see where it’s coming from and marvel every ounce of love it takes to produce a cup of tea. Happy travels!
Traveller. World's top 10 best places for a cuppa. Retrieved from http://www.traveller.com.au/worlds-top-10-best-places-for-a-cuppa-krpm
The New York Times. In the Hills of Sri Lanka’s Tea Country. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/travel/in-the-hills-of-sri-lankas-tea-country.html
The Telegraph. London's 10 best afternoon teas. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/england/london/articles/Londons-ten-best-afternoon-teas/
The Telegraph. Ritz Hotel and Trans-Siberian railway head tea tourism guide. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/6789839/Ritz-Hotel-and-Trans-Siberian-railway-head-tea-tourism-guide.html